A Game Everyone Can Enjoy, except Americans . . .
Soccer is a great sport. It operates on so many levels, allowing fans
and players of all ages and skill levels to appreciate it. A five year old can
have fun just kicking a ball around, while a sophisticated adult can spend hours
analyzing strategies and developing new techniques.
FIFA 99 is a great video
game for the same reason that soccer is a great sport – it operates on so many
levels. A novice can pick up the game, set the difficulty to easy, and have
a great time kicking the ball around and scoring goals. You only need to learn
a few buttons (pass, shoot, and tackle) and you’re on your way. It’s as simple
as those pick-up games you used to play at recess. But, the game also has appeal
for the hard core video game player. There are plenty of complex moves and strategies
to keep even the most serious soccer enthusiast on his toes for hours and hours.
For the most part, FIFA 99 is a lot like last year’s version, but with a bunch of minor improvements. EA used a new graphics engine, and the players are larger and move more realistically than ever before. Don’t worry, however, because the improved graphics in no way impede the gameplay. The game moves faster than ever, which allows you to piece together some impressive passing attacks and never leaves you bored or frustrated.
The controls are basically the same as most soccer video games, so if you’ve played FIFA 98, you’ll probably pick up this version relatively quickly. The biggest difference in the controls this time around is dribbling. It’s a bit harder to pull off some of the special moves, but there are a lot more dribbling moves you can perform, so it’s well worth the extra effort. Same goes for headers and volleys – they’re a bit tricky to perform at first, but not too bad once you get the hang of it.
In addition to new ball handling abilities, FIFA 99 allows you to play around with some new strategies. You can still do all the stuff from FIFA 98, including setting formations, choosing your strikers and throwers, setting your attack intensity, etc. But, FIFA 99 lets you call 4 different set plays during the game, such as an off sides trap or a wing back run. Although these can be very difficult to execute, they certainly add to the game’s realism. These plays become especially necessary on the advanced levels, as the game’s AI gets pretty tough to beat.
One big improvement over last
year is the training mode. It’s quite simple – you just choose how many strikers
and how many defenders you want on the field, and then play. Training is a great
way to learn all the different complex skills and strategies, or you can use
it to create a handicap match if you’re much better at the game than your friends.
Unfortunately, this is the only way you can play anything other than 11 on 11,
as EA took out the indoor stadium (a 5 on 5 game), which was so successful in
last year’s version.
Since it’s not a World Cup year, EA decided to leave the World Cup tournament format out of the game, which was a disappointment. It was really fun to try to take one of those underdog countries like Quatar or Japan through the qualifying rounds and into the tourney. Instead, you have the option of entering the European Dream League, which pits all the best European teams against each other. Of course, you can still play in each country’s league, or make your own custom league, if that’s what floats your boat.
Finally, since this is an EA game, there are TONS of details. There’s a bunch of different stadiums, weather conditions, and new announcers. Before a match, you might see two opposing players shake hands and wish each other good luck, and after a goal you might see a player shake his hips and get his groove on. My personal favorite is when the players appear to be trash talking . . . although you can never tell what they’re saying.
On the whole, FIFA 99 is a great game, but I have two major complaints. First, I have issues with waiting what seems like an eternity for a video game to load, no matter how fun the game is. The load time in FIFA 99 is simply unbearable. Second, I have problems with the game’s menus. I’m no computer programmer, but I’m sure it’s not that hard to create menus that are easy to move around. Maneuvering through the menus in FIFA 99 is like trying to find your way through a house of mirrors, and it’s just not worth the effort. If I’m going to have to spend time learning the intricacies of a game, it shouldn’t be in the menu section. Why can’t they just make menus like they did back in the good ol’ days of the 8 bit Nintendo – simple and straightforward? Oh well, maybe I’m just being too picky…
Despite the loading and menu problems, FIFA 99 is still a great game.
You can be a novice or a hardened veteran and the game will still provide hours
and hours of entertainment. If you have any interest in soccer, or just sports
in general, this would be a good game to add to your collection.